Obama administration announces initiatives to help end health disparities affecting LGBT people

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced a series of actions designed to improve the health and well-being of LGBT people. The changes are in response to an April 2010 request from President Obama to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for suggestions on how HHS could improve the lives of LGBT people.

The new initiatives will help address the many health disparities facing the LGBT community and explicitly extend nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity covering HHS programs. The changes will also include Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines for ways in which the states can expand benefits for LGBT families in existing programs, and an annual report from an HHS committee on LGBT health issues.

HHS also announced plans for a number of additional initiatives aimed at addressing LGBT health disparities. The key objectives include providing information on LGBT health issues like domestic partner benefits on the government’s health care reform website (www.healthcare.gov); increasing the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data on federal health-related surveys; fostering the development of more culturally-based guidelines for health professionals and organizations to better serve the LGBT community, particularly young people; and recognizing the LGBT community as an underserved population to address the many health inequities faced by LGBT people due to lack of programs.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said:

The initiatives announced today by HHS mark important steps toward closing the huge health disparity gap experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families. These changes are greatly needed and much welcomed. As we come to the close of National LGBT Health Awareness Week, this announcement is also a reminder of the work still left to be done to ensure the health needs of LGBT people are not ignored and overlooked. We thank the federal government for being a partner in this effort and look forward to our continued work with the Obama administration and HHS in addressing this critical issue.